Wolf-delisting: The Politics of Blood

gray-wolf-gazingGeorge Bush and his peeps thought gray wolves should be delisted as endangered species in Montana and Idaho.  So does Ken Salazar and, we must assume, Barack Obama.  Bush and peeps also thought it okay to ignore allies.  So, apparently, do Ken Salazar and Barack Obama.  But never mind politics.

Wolves were hunted to near extinction in this country due in large part to their (undeserved) reputation as dangerous predators and to the caterwauling of ranchers who like to poison, shoot or trap anything that might eat their animals before people do.  Thanks to the Endangered Species Act and a well-executed reintroduction program in the Northwest (carried out over the vociferous protests of ranchers and others), there are now approximately 1600 wolves in the Northern Rockies.

That, apparently, is too many.  Since Montana and Idaho have pledged to maintain populations of 400 and 500 animals, respectively, wolf-hunting may soon commence.  Supposedly, states can be trusted to create sound management plans for the animals.  Idaho Governor Butch Otter has a plan: kill as many as possible without the wolves being relisted.  You see, wolves eat elk and that means less elk for people to shoot.  It’s a crime perpetrated on the American sportsman.  Upon hearing the news of the imminent delisting, Governor Otter howled with glee and declared, “I’m prepared to bid for that first ticket to shoot a wolf myself.”

One wonders if Idaho and Montana will be like Alaska — where “hunters” can shoot wolves from the air.  Or maybe it will just be another classic confrontation of a heavily armed man against an unarmed animal who, when it dies, will almost certainly be attempting to flee.  You see, in the history of the United States, there has never been a fatal attack on a human by a wolf.  Never.

My son is doing a report on wolves for his class.  He has become fascinated by their language, their pack life, and their intelligence.  He is incredulous that they were extirpated from most of the United States and indignant about their undeserved reputation.  Last night, I told him of the Obama Administration’s decision.  He was heartbroken.


16 Responses

  1. I am with you on this, completely, but for sake of accuracy, isn’t it true that there have been rare attacks on humans, but just not any or many confirmed *fatal* attacks? I could certainly be wrong (and even if there have been rare attacks on humans, that changes nothing, of course, and makes this move to start hunting them again no less heinous), but that’s the understanding I have.

  2. Right you are. Thanks for the correction. There have been 27 attacks in 233 years. I’ve revised the post appropriately.

  3. Hi,
    Im really enjoying this site and am looking forward to more of your posts.
    Keep up the good work.

  4. Rare attacks aside, wolves pose no threat to humans. Farmers and ranchers fear them but the concern is exaggerated and, often, acted out in violation of the law.

    I hope DNC’s son gets a chance to go to the wonderful wolf conservatory in northeastern Westchester County, owned and run by the internationally acclaimed pianist, Helene Grimaud. Ms. Grimaud, who has both state and federal licenses to raise wolves, treats the animals that come under her (and her staff’s) care as wild and the plan is to reintroduce them to their natural habitat. A couple of wolves are treated differently and are used for display at appropriate environmental events (they came with her to one of our Earth Day celebrations).

    Very sadly, two wolves from ms. Grimaud’s preserve were shot and killed shortly after being released, the second one very recently.

    Of course, for some there is a dilemma. Wolves excite the concern and sympathy of many who have little interest in other issues concerning wild animals. Commitment to saving wolves doesn’t necessarily lead to involvement in a broader range of conservation priorities. A few years ago the National Wildlife Federation offered a small, plush wolf for a donation and they were swamped. I can think of many species that people won’t rush to get plush versions. Not a criticism, just an observation.

  5. Here’s the website for the Wolf Conservation Center:


  6. You are lucky that there are still some places in your country where species like the wolf can still be protected. Wolves wer wiped out from the UK a long time ago and i strongly wish we still had them. But then almost every inch of the UK is farm land so a wolf population may not very popular.

    The grey wolf is one of the most beautiful creatures in existance with one of the closest social communities seen in the animal kingdom. If left to themselves they will find some sort of equilibrium and the population will steady itself in relation to the ammount of resources available. Culling a species like the wolf is a pointless process as wovles need a reasonably large number of pack members in order to hunt effectivly. Killing a number of pack members would result in more breeding and more wolves unless that entire pack is wiped out. Doing this would limit the genetic diversity of the general wolf population and would leave them suseptable to the quick spread of disease.

    If there is a problem with wolves hunting livestock then someone should be making an absolute fortune with an advanced ‘wolf proofing’ system. However if (as this article suggests) that a cull is being considrd because the wolves are killing ‘too many’ elk then the wolves are going to be punished for doing EXACTLY what nature intended them to do.

  7. […] has strong parallels to the wolf scenario in the United States (some irony: the wolf-bloodthirsty governor of Idaho is named Otter…).  […]

  8. […] endorses using professional sharpshooters instead.  That the predator option (can you say “wolves?”) remains off the table is an unfortunate commentary on our ongoing national […]

  9. […] Hunt Update The wolf hunt in Idaho and Montana has begun (I first blogged about it here).  A number of environmental groups sued, asking for an injunction but, since Idaho released the […]

  10. […] Times on the return of the legal wolf hunt and commentary at Animal Blawg by David E. Cassuto on it here, here and […]

  11. Hi… As a wolf therian, I truly see the wolf as my species and not humans. Therefore, wolfhunting in my eyes, can only be compared to the slaughter of the Jews, the persecution of Christians in Islamic countries and othersuch atrocities. You may think that I’m joking or being melodramatic, but If you seriously considered imagining the wolves under these circumstances as humans, you’d understand the extremetity of my response. When a wolf dies, it’s like I’ve lost a sibling. Thankyou for als expressing your concern with this article.

    Ebony, 16

  12. Due to the Obama Administration’s pick of Salazar to head the Interior, we are now on day thirty six of the gray wolf hunts. So much for positive change after eight Bush years.

    The hunts are pure and simple politics as usual in the West. If wolves hunted rabbits instead of elk we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Unfortunately for wolves they hunt and kill the same ungulates that man loves to kill so fervently.

    Judge Molloy’s decision can’t come too soon. It’s so sad we have to sit through a fall, winter and spring of dead wolf counts.


  13. […] issue and the chance of an unalloyed victory seem slim (see my post here and a related one here).  But the district court’s as yet unissued decision is not necessarily the last word on the […]

  14. […] to Interior and Tom Vilsack to Agriculture, as well as with highly problematic positions on the grey wolf and nuclear power – seems to have found its stride.  President Obama was very impressive in […]

  15. A true joy to discover so many like-minded folks. Here is the latest on the wolf hunt situation from Michael Robinson. This is only a kinder, gentler form of the massive wolf extermination practice of the previous 70 years.
    My God, why can’t we co-exist…I get so sick of our selfishness.
    My blog is quite new and still finding its feet, but I expect to ask some of you to be on my blogroll!

  16. […] blogged a fair bit about the ill-advised delisting of gray wolves as endangered species in the northern Rockies, as well as about the lawsuit that followed.  When […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: